I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.
The mid-major hoops feast that is Bracketbuster weekend has arrived. It kicked off Friday night with VCU defeating Northern Iowa and Loyola Marymount following up their upset of St. Mary’s with a win over Horizon League leader Valparaiso. We previewed all of the televised Bracketbuster matchups when they were released, so we won’t rehash all the here. But we do regret that that the two biggest games on the schedule — Murray State v. St. Mary’s and Creighton v. Long Beach State — have lost a bit of their luster. The Racers saw their undefeated run end in less-than-gallant fashion, with a loss at home to Tennessee State, while the Gaels have dropped 2 of their last 3 games by a combined 29 points. Meanwhile, Creighton’s recent three-game skid, punctuated by a huge loss to Wichita State, has taken some of the sheen off of their otherwise stellar season. Still, these are all teams likely headed for the Big Dance, and today’s big games will give them a chance to re-ignite their season and build some momentum as they head towards March.
After the updated top 15, we recap five big games from the week that was, including a dramatic buzzer-beater. We also take a look at four tumultuous conference races and the two big non-Bracketbuster games to keep an eye on this week.
- George Mason 62, VCU 61 — This was a big game between two of the CAA’s three conference co-leaders, and it didn’t disappoint. Sherrod Wright won the game on a dramatic three-point buzzer beater. (See it for yourself, many times over, below.) The broader keys to Mason’s win were the two things that have sustained them all year — defense and forward Ryan Pearson. The Patriots held VCU to under 40% FG shooting, and Pearson led the team with 24 points and 11 rebounds.
- Loyola Marymount 75, St. Mary’s 60 — Down 35-34 early in the second half, LMU went on a 13-2 run and never looked back, stunning the first-place Gaels with a 15-point defeat on their home floor. How did LMU pull off the upset? First, they managed to get to the line 27 times against a team that doesn’t usually give their opponent that many free throw attempts. Second, they contained St. Mary’s starting backcourt, holding Matthew Dellavedova, Jorden Page, and Stephen Holt to a combined 5-19 shooting, including a miserable 0-9 from three-point range. Read the rest of this entry »